Originally posted on The Queensbury Rules  |  Last updated 3/14/13
(Grimsby’s Kevin Hooper as photographed by Jon Corken for The Grimsby Telegraph) Some fighters rattle on about hard work and dedication as if they hold a monopoly on them. Floyd Mayweather uses it as his gym mantra in fact but there aren’t many that can match Grimsby lightweight Kevin Hooper. He goes for the English junior lightweight title in Cleethorpes this weekend, against Dewsbury’s sweetheart Gary Sykes -- and he took time out from his manic schedule to talk to TQBR. “I’ve got two jobs,” Hooper explained. “I work as a security guard (at an inner-city retail centre) and a doorman as well. I’m up early in the morning training and then it’s work, training after work, night runs…I mean, I put it in.” A husband and father of three, boxing has had to vie for his attention with working around the clock. The Midlands Area champion, unbeaten in 13 contests, has his hands full, and then some. He details a schedule that would make others balk. “It’s sacrifices I have to make,” he insisted. “If I want to go somewhere then I’ve got to make them, so that’s what I do. If I’m successful in this fight it should open doors up and -- touch wood -- I get a bit of full-time sponsorship.” It’s humbling to hear him talk about the ongoing struggle of fighting part-time and while it irks Hooper that he has to cram professional sport in between paying the bills, he doesn’t let that dampen his outlook -- “It does bother me but if you want to get somewhere you’ve gotta put it in,” he said. “Super” Hooper moves into a higher class against former British champion Sykes, 22-3 (5), who at 29, is the older man by a year. Despite having beaten cross-Pennine rival Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla on separate occasions, Sykes has found it hard to catch a break. A potential life-altering HBO date in Vegas against the brash Ohio boxer Adrian Broner slipped agonisingly through his grip after the show was scrapped at the last minute. His only competitive action over the past 12 months has been a three-round elimination tournament up at lightweight (Sykes was edged out in the final by Manchester lefty Terry Flannigan). One senses that the prospect of facing Hooper hasn’t lit a fire beneath Sykes in the same way “The Problem” managed to. If so, he could be in trouble. “I’m a lot hungrier,” Hooper said. “He’s hoping for a rematch with (Gary) Buckland and I think he’s overlooked me and come Friday night he’ll see that. I think he took his eye off the ball and is looking beyond me.” Despite feeling slighted, Hooper acknowledges his opponent is “a quality lad." “I need a good, strong performance to beat a fighter like Gary Sykes,” he admitted. “I’ve prepared hard for it, mentally and physically. He’s well known and, obviously, I’m up-and-coming and to take that from him -- it’s going to be massive. I’ve worked hard on tactics. I know he’s a good boxer and that he’s going to come at me -- as long as I stick to my boxing I’ll be fine.” His speaks admiringly of Ricky Hatton and Paul Ingle -- relentless fighters -- highlighting Ingle’s head movement along with his courage. Family is never far from his mind: “I hope I can go far. I want to progress and work hard for ‘em. I just want to get to the top,” he said. “During training camp, I hae to sacrifice family life and spend little time with the kids -- it’s hard.” Once Friday rolls around, Hooper plans to make amends for his imposed absence by spending time at home in Grimsby, a seaport on the Humber Estuary. The aim is to relax with his family until the fight looms into view. “From when the fight’s made like, obviously you think it through -- all the different scenarios. But I’m quite calm to be fair -- I’m just excited about it," he said. "I had my check weigh-in yesterday and I was 9 stone 4 lbs and 6 ozs, so I’m perfect. I’ve done it easier than I’ve ever made lightweight. I’m hungry, it’s my home turf and I’ll do what it takes to win.” If he can, you sense it will have been worth all of the hard yards.
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